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White House spokesmen said on Sunday that there would be no prosecutions of those involved in writing legal memos or making policy that embraced torture. But on Tuesday, in the midst of a press opportunity with the visiting Jordanian king, Obama did an abrupt about-face, denying he was prejudging the matter and insisting that the ball was fully in Attorney General Holder’s court. What was behind this dramatic turn-around? I give a glimpse under the tent in this account in The Daily Beast.
Senior Justice Department lawyers were “incensed” at the Emanuel and Gibbs statements, as one put it—not because they disagreed with Obama’s apparent opposition to an investigation and prosecution, but because the statements violated well established rules separating political figures in the White House from decisions about active criminal cases. The statements were viewed as a frontal assault on the autonomy and independence of the criminal justice system. “Emanuel got far ahead of the process and described it in a way that clearly suggested that political judgment was driving the entire process,” one senior Justice official told me. “It was depressing and amateurish.”
Holder is now close to a decision on whether to appoint a special prosecutor to look into torture allegations, and Rahm Emanuel’s misstep may have the ironic consequence of tipping the issue in the other direction.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”